Now hiring. Atheists need not apply.

By Devon Downey, Idaho Reports

 

Atheists in Idaho law enforcement are forced to lie.

They are forced to lie before they even start their job, and they must do so while signing a code of ethics.

Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Division Administrator Victor McCraw would like to change that.

All POST officers must abide by and sign the ethics code, which states “I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession – law enforcement.” The phrase “before God” drew the objections of an applicant, who argued that it was ironic that they would have to lie while signing an ethics form.

McCraw consulted with a Deputy Attorney General and the POST Council about potential changes to the code of ethics that removed the religious language.

An unnamed Deputy Attorney General told McCraw that the language would be a constitutional issue. If challenged in a lawsuit, McCraw recounted, POST would lose. When reached for comment, the Attorney General’s office said they had no formal position on this issue.

The POST Council requested McCraw change the language. McCraw recommended “before God” be replaced by “with sincere and unfaltering commitment.” A divided POST Council agreed.

On January 15th, McCraw presented the rule change came to the House Judiciary and Rules committee.

Representative Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, objected to the change, criticizing the removal of references to God and questioned whether other sections of the code could be removed based on objections.

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, asked why objectors couldn’t use a different code. McCraw stated that it was something that the council considered, but that they wanted a universal code for all officers.

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, attempted to stop the rule change. “The founding documents of our country and state are based on the belief of a supreme being,” Zito told Idaho Reports.

“Removing God because of fear of litigation is not a sound reason,” said Zito. “I support providing an optional oath for those who do not believe in God. I also believe it is important to protect the strong belief in God of those in my district and our state.”

The committee did not accept the changes that removed “before God.” They allowed all other changes to pass. Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, was the only one to disagree.

The “basis of the constitution is the separation of church and state. Government can’t impose who to pledge to,” said Wintrow. “It’s unconstitutional. [That’s] not me [saying that], it’s the AG saying it. God’s most important gift is choice.”

“It’s unconstitutional. [The pledge] is a religious test to gain employment”, explained Kathy Griesmyer, Policy Director of the ACLU of Idaho. Griesmyer cited Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) where the Supreme Court said, “[w]e repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’”

Since the House did not approve the changes, the code of ethics still includes the “before God” pledge. McCraw noted that POST would be unable to make any changes until the end of the legislative session. When the session ends, they will temporarily change the pledge to add “or with sincere and unfaltering commitment”. Then the POST committee will have to decide what changes to present to the legislature in 2019.

The ACLU, POST, and at least one person in the attorney general’s office believe the current POST rules are unconstitutional. Now, it’s up to the 2019 Legislature to decide what happens next.

 

Standard

Talk is cheap, action could be priceless

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Public Television

 

Hours after members tasked with addressing possible amendments to harassment policies inside Idaho’s Statehouse, Majority Leader Chuck Winder stood at the front of the Senate, looked at his colleague Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill and said “Your voice sounds sexy today.” That comment was broadcast around the state.

Inside the Senate room, Winder’s remark got a few laughs in the chamber, various looks of astonishment from reporters and unknown reactions from citizens around the state.

Last year this comment may have never been repeated or discussed. That was before the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement. It was before reports erupted about Harvey Weinstein. It was even before a harassment settlement was announced with the state Controller’s office, as well as before allegations about Rep. Brandon Hixon, Rep. James Holtzclaw, Sen. Bob Nonini or lobbyist Colby Cameron.

But this year the Idaho Statehouse has multiple conversations about harassment running concurrently.

The Respectful Workplace Task Force personifies the first conversion members, made up of lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists and Statehouse staffers, are attempting to change the culture of the Idaho Statehouse and put a policy in place that combats harassment.

At the same time, Statehouse hallway talk has focused on self-preservation. There are quips about not being able to make jokes, hug, speak freely, or meet with women alone anymore for fear of being on the front page of the newspaper. This personifies the second conversation.

People looking for change and guidance without direction personifies the third.

In the first meeting of the Respectful Workplace Task Force, Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb _ a Democrat from Boise and co-chair of the panel focused on the need to have a solid policy in place by saying, “I took it for granted that that culture would follow me along.”

Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville , in the same meeting drew attention to the second sentiment by arguing that  “At least a half a dozen people didn’t get it. People immediately said ‘this does not apply to me’.”

“It can put them in an incredibly difficult position,” said Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, talking about the awkward place leadership would be in hearing these complaints. She echoed the third conversation looking for change and guidance saying “they don’t have (human resource) experience themselves.”

No one in the Idaho Legislature is sure about the right course of action, but the Legislature does have resources they can use.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, investigated workplace harassment in 2015. The commission found that preventing workplace harassment must start at the top. Leadership “must communicate a sense of urgency about preventing workplace harassment. They must communicate this through words, policies, and procedures that create a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.”

Winder, a Republican from Boise, was making a joke when he commented on a sexy voice. Winder said Wednesday to Idaho Reports he takes harassment very seriously, but studies have shown harassment happens not because of bad actors but because of bad environments.

“Workplaces that tolerate harassment have more of it and workplaces that are less tolerant of harassment have less of it,” said Mindy Bergman, a psychology professor at Texas A&M University in the EEOC report. “This is a circular problem, because when harassment occurs and organizational leaders do not take it seriously, then the message is that harassment is tolerated, so then it becomes even more OK to harass-and when harassment is taken seriously and shut down, then the message is that harassment is not tolerated.”

Winder’s comment doesn’t excuse harassment. However, the comment does not reiterate to the Senate chamber and the state that telling someone they have a sexy voice is unacceptable in the workplace.

As of Wednesday, Idaho Reports knows of no complaints filed about Winders comment on Jan. 25th.

The unknown is how this could affect the next time a page, lobbyist, lawmaker, reporter or citizen hears they have a sexy (insert noun). The EEOC studied how many people file complaints after being harassed and found “anywhere from 87 percent to 94 percent of individuals did not file a formal complaint,” and that is just the individuals that know they could.

The Idaho Statehouse is even murkier.

“Often times these things can happen off campus,” said Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, drawing attention to the working environment of the Idaho Legislature. In the Statehouse, few people work for the people they interact with and seldom do bills get greenlighted at the statehouse instead they get passed over food and sometimes drinks.

Den Hartog, however, didn’t see that as a complication: “It’s not unique to address outside people. We’re not as special as we sometimes think we are.”

However, the Idaho Statehouse has some constitutional complications. Three branches of government all at some point in the same building and countless citizens expressing their constitutional rights to protest and occasionally be offensive. “We should not try to overreach and create a perfect environment while infringing on the public’s constitutional rights,” said Chad Houck with the secretary of state’s office.

Then there are the complications that victims encounter.

Harassment is not fully understood even by those victims. Sexual harassment has three general categories.

  1. Unwanted sexual attention. It is easy to understand it. It is exactly what it sounds like.
  2. Sexual coercion. It is basically a quid quo pro, if you want this promotion, give your boss this sexual favor. Or, if you want to keep your job, give your boss this sexual favor.
  3. The final category is not always at the top of mind when thinking about harassment. Gender harassment is sexual but not aimed at forcing sex. It is comments that undercut men, woman, gays, lesbians or transgendered people from their ability to do their job. Think of comments like “hussy” or a “male whore” or actions that make it hard for people to advance or do their job.

An EEOC deep dive into other peer-reviewed studies on harassment found that “anywhere from 25 percent to 85 percent of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.” That is a huge range. The major factor was that studies that asked people if they experienced “sexual harassment” in the workplace found one in four women said yes.

The number skyrocketed when studies asked people if they have experienced unwanted sexual attention, sexual coercion, or gender harassment

Lilia M. Cortina, Ph.D., Professor at the University of Michigan  pointed out that even amongst the people who acknowledged this harassment “fewer than 20-30 percent label the conduct as “sexual harassment” per se.” Cortina continued “rates are even lower among women who have only encountered gender harassment.”

“Will people get what they desire?” said Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding. “If we don’t have someone to listen to them in there it might get pushed under the carpet.”

“We’re lacking about specifics about the process,” said Toni Lawson, a lobbyist with the Idaho Hospital Association “There needs to be openness and follow up, and the process needs to be spelled out.”  

The knowledge of what is and isn’t “sexual harassment” is only one impediment to reporting the other is retaliation. A 2003 study found that three out of four employees who spoke up about harassment faced some form of workplace retaliation.

The process itself impacts if people report or not. Victims of harassment don’t report the behavior because they fear “disbelief of their claim; inaction on their claim; receipt of blame for causing the offending actions; social retaliation (including humiliation and ostracism)” according to the EEOC.

“We need an outside professional that has experience,” said Den Hartog.

Legislative leadership is always in a political situation by their very job, she added. They are not trained in how to deal with harassment complaints.

“It can put them in an incredibly difficult position, and they don’t have (human resources) experience themselves,” said Den Hartog

According to EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, leadership is crucial, but it is not enough. Feldblum said, “for workers to believe their leaders are authentic – that they mean what they say — there must be accountability.”

However, accountability in the Idaho Statehouse will always come with a cost. Lobbyist Jack Lyman, with the Idaho Housing Alliance, summed up that cost succinctly: “Remember the people with green tags are funding this thing …who has the authority to say we don’t want you anymore?”

Therein lies the problem, it takes following through with the harsh repercussions to change the culture of the Idaho Statehouse.  

“If weak sanctions are imposed for bad behavior, employees learn that harassment is tolerated, regardless of the messages, money, time, and resources spent to the contrary,” the EEOC wrote. “Similarly, if high-ranking and/or highly-valued employees are not dealt with severely if they engage in harassment, that sends the wrong message loud and clear.”

In short? Without enforcement and without punishment of bad behavior, having the right words and right police will have little effect on implementing real change.

“Changing a culture takes a while,” said Buckner-Webb.

 

Note: Idaho Reports host Melissa Davlin represents the media on the Respectful Workplace Committee. She did not contribute to or edit this report. 

Standard

Everything might be on the record

 

IMG_7062

The camera in House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane’s office. Photo by Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

 

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

There are fourteen cameras controlled by Idaho In Session at the capitol. There are multiple cameras controlled by Allied Barton Security — how many, they wouldn’t say. There is also a camera in the House Assistant Majority Leader’s office. That camera is controlled by Rep. Brent Crane.

The camera records Crane’s office and all the people who enter it. Crane placed the camera on a bookshelf, where it records on a loop, writing over the previous information as it records more. The information is available for only a short time unless it is downloaded and archived. The only person able to archive that video is Crane.

“Sometimes people’s emotions run high and nonverbal communication can be misinterpreted, or maybe I’m just getting up to get to the next meeting and someone takes that as aggression,” Crane said. “I can show them video and we can see what really happened.”

“I think there is a question to whether it’s even a reliable record of what transpires there, because he does maintain complete control,” said House Assistant Minority Leader  Ilana Rubel.

Crane does not always tell people who come into his office that the camera exists, though he did tell his fellow House Republicans about the office surveillance on Jan. 18, shortly after Idaho Reports inquired about the recordings. As of Jan. 22, House Democrats hadn’t officially been informed.

“You don’t have to inform people by state law,” Crane told Idaho Reports, referring to Idaho’s one-party consent law. “I don’t tell people because I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable.”

When asked if Idaho Reports could record its interview with him, Crane said no.

The camera is new this year. “With everything going on in this political climate, I need to protect myself,” Crane explained. “I made this decision because of this session’s tone, and the reports across the country and reports right here in Idaho.”

Those things going on across the country are powerful men being accused of sexual harassment and misconduct. “Some men have expressed concern about being falsely accused of sexual harassment when they’re making a joke,” said Jaclyn J. Kettler, assistant professor with Boise State University’s School of Public Service. “The recording of the legislator’s behavior is an effort to protect from sexual harassment charges.”

This is a concern shared by those putting together respectful workplace policies. “What happens for those people who might be falsely accused of a violation of a respectful workplace policy? How do you respect their privacy and don’t make it so public that they can’t ever recover their good name?” said Rep. Caroline Troy, co-chair of the working group tasked with tackling workplace policies, in a Wednesday interview with Idaho Reports. “If it’s a false accusation, those are equally weighty issues to be considering.”

“In the Time’s Up/Me Too movement, we’ve certainly seen careers shattered based on on an allegation,” Rubel said.  “I guess I can understand why someone would want documentation to resist that with, but you have to balance that with the human realities. It creates a lack of trust there, and that fear of what this is being used for, ‘Am I being set up?’ It would definitely be an obstacle to candid and open conversations.”

It’s hard to separate this camera from the #metoo movement. Crane has always been cautious when interacting with women. “I don’t go to lunch with women one-on-one out of respect to my wife and their spouses,” Crane said. “That’s a policy I’ve had for a long time.”

The Idaho Legislature is not Washington D.C. or Hollywood. There have been sexual harassment accusations here, but there has also been something Crane refers to as “gotcha politics.”

“I can get a sense with some of the people that come into my office that I might need to document this. Some of these people that might want to play gotcha politics. And I might feel that I need to have this info… I have a reputation to protect,” Crane said.

According to Crane, four people have been falsely accused of hostile behavior this year, as well as additional harassment allegations.  In one case, Crane said security footage disproved one claim, but he declined to discuss the specifics of those accusations.

Crane is attempting to give himself the same proof of innocence. “If someone makes an accusation against me, I can say ‘Here is the camera. Let’s look at the tape,’” Crane said.  

Others see it differently. “If they were false accusations, then I imagine the person could just make them about a different time or place than the legislator’s office,” said Jeffrey Lyons, an assistant professor at Boise State University’s School of Public Service.

However, some inside the statehouse seem to be interested in the idea. “I already had one colleague of mine ask me to get him one,” Crane said. “It speaks to the concerns people are having.”

“Individuals have the right to self-record,” said Kathy Griesmyer, public policy strategist for ACLU-Idaho. “Think ag-gag for example. The courts have held up that recorded materials are speech, and should therefore be protected. But, if the government were to be filming members of the public, we wouldn’t want government actors surreptitiously gathering video of individuals without them knowing.”

There are many lawmakers, lobbyists, reporters and citizens who meet with Crane in his office. “Generally I would want to know if I was being recorded if I was meeting with a lawmaker, especially if I’m sharing privileged information or discussing legislative strategy,” said Griesmyer. “I would also want to know how they plan to use the recorded materials as well.”

Crane said he has not yet felt the need to archive any video. Still, his ability to do so, and the knowledge of the camera’s existence, could affect the behavior of those visiting his office.

If this became more common, it might make negotiations over legislation more difficult, if legislators were worried that there was a record of everything they said somewhere,” Lyons said.

“You have to be able to have offline conversations with your colleagues as you’re brainstorming ideas.” said Rep. Luke Malek. “I wouldn’t want to be judged for every bad idea I’ve ever had.”

“I wouldn’t want to have a brainstorming session in Rep. Cranes office,” Rubel said “You would hate for those ideas to be used in an attack piece.”

Kettler shares those concerns that it could create unease and distrust in the workplace, but added the cameras could improve transparency. As for everyday citizens, Kettler said, “I suppose they might feel hesitant in visiting with their legislators if they know they’re being recorded.”

Clandestine recording are not new to Idaho politicians. In 2016, Rep. Ron Nate used a cell phone camera to capture video of conservations with fellow lawmakers without consent, and Bonneville County GOP official Doyle Beck surreptitiously recorded a 2016 conversation with then-GOP chairman Steve Yates.

Even Crane is still wrestling with how it should be handled. “Maybe I should inform people that they are being recorded, put a sign up on the office,”  Crane said, adding he doesn’t think it’s going away. “I would not be surprised if more people do this.”

Standard

Federal sign-off on Idaho solution? Wait and see.

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

Two health care plans — one an executive order on health insurance, and one a legislative proposal on Medicaid waivers — are touted as Idaho solutions to rising health care costs.

But sometimes, even state solutions need permission from the federal government. Right now, there’s no guarantee that permission will come.

In a Thursday interview with Idaho Reports, Idaho Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron said both the executive order and the dual waiver proposal would need sign-off from the feds. When asked if he was confident that blessing would come, Cameron answered “We’ll see, won’t we?”

The executive order directs Cameron to create guidelines for insurance plans to be sold in Idaho that wouldn’t necessarily meet the mandates outlined in the Affordable Care Act. That wouldn’t need permission from the feds so much as the federal government’s inaction — in other words, declining to come after Idaho for non-compliant plans.

“We believe that when the president and Congress… repealed the individual mandate, that meant consumers didn’t have to buy ACA compliant plans,” Cameron said. “That means they can buy something else.”

But that belief hasn’t yet been tested, Cameron said.

The federal government has a few chances to comment on Idaho’s plans: When Idaho issues its guidelines, and when insurance companies create insurance plans to fit those guidelines. Right now, Cameron is working on putting together guidelines for insurance providers on what must be covered.

Jon Hanian, spokesman for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, pointed to President Donald Trump’s inclination toward deregulation as a sign of hope for the Idaho efforts.

“We have been and continue to be in constant contact with federal officials on this issue. They’re asking questions and we’re answering.”

“As of right now, they’re taking a wait-and-see approach,” Hanian said.

Another proposal, more uncertainty

The dual waiver proposal also needs sign-off — and unlike the executive order, it requires the federal government to take action.

Here’s how it works: One waiver would allow individuals with incomes under 100 percent of the federal poverty line to receive cost-share reductions and tax credits meant for buying insurance on the private market. The other waiver allows Idahoans with “medically complex diagnoses” — essentially, long-term conditions that are expensive to treat — to move to Medicaid.

The federal government hasn’t OKed the first part of the proposal regarding the tax credits. Without that first waiver, the second part of the proposal doesn’t work.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who also signed the executive order, emphasized the difference between the insurance executive order and the Medicaid dual waiver legislative proposal.

“Of course, (the feds) are in the same place,” Little said. “Everyone was expecting a repeal and replace, and all we’ve done is kind of banged up the Affordable Care Act.”

Cameron and Hanian said despite the uncertainty on both proposals, the Department of Insurance is in constant contact with DC.

“We’re… trying to walk a fine line between what would be acceptable and what would be unacceptable to the federal government,” Cameron said.

“We’re in touch with them every step of the way so that it doesn’t run into any problems and it would avoid any potential” issues, Hanian said.

The Jan. 19th episode of Idaho Reports also featured Rep. Fred Wood, chairman of the House Health and Welfare committee, and Sen. Maryanne Jordan, member of the Senate Health and Welfare committee, discussing the merits of the proposals.

We’ll have much more on health care throughout the season. You can watch the full episode of Idaho Reports here, or watch the extended interview here.

Standard

Idaho Reports web extra: Full interviews from Jan. 19th episode

You’d think we’d be able to fit three segments into an hour-long show, but this week, the conversations were too interesting to cut short. Both of our panel discussions — one on sexual harassment and respectful workplace policies, and one on the two Idaho health care proposals — went longer than we’d anticipated, and both were too interesting to put on the shelf.

So if our weekly show wasn’t enough, here are the full interviews.

 

 

Standard

IDP data director resigns after domestic battery charge

Updated 3:35 pm, Jan. 18, with information on Hamilton’s resignation. 

 

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

The data director for the Idaho Democratic Party resigned Thursday after being charged with domestic battery.

Tom Hamilton, former political director for the party, was arrested and charged with domestic battery on Jan. 7th.  He currently has a no contact order placed on him.

hamilton

Earlier in the week, Idaho Reports had asked the Idaho Democratic Party whether Hamilton was still employed after the party learned about the charges.

“Right when we found out, we placed him on administrative leave,” Shelby Scott, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party, said Tuesday. “The alleged incident happened outside of work hours and did not involve any members of the IDP organization.”

Scott added Hamilton was still being paid, but had been locked out of his work accounts.
On Tuesday, Scott and Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Bert Marley declined to comment on whether Hamilton would continue to be employed by the party.

“As of right now he has been placed on administrative leave, and I believe that the chairman will come to a decision,” Scott said Tuesday. “We take all of these allegations seriously, and we want to make sure people know we are taking this seriously. Any sort of incidents like this or any sort of arrest, we need to take a look at what’s going on there, and this is obviously no different.”

Ultimately, Hamilton resigned, and Marley accepted his resignation, Scott said Thursday.

The Idaho Democratic Party has previously criticized Republicans for supporting candidates with a history of domestic violence. In 2014, then-Idaho Democratic Party communications director Dean Ferguson attacked Republican support for Rep. Greg Chaney after Chaney’s past domestic battery charges came to light.

“The Idaho Democratic Party says Idaho families and Idaho children ‘deserve your support,’” Ferguson wrote. “Gov. Otter owes Idaho to explain why he endorses a candidate with Greg Chaney’s recent criminal history. Gov. Otter needs to tell Idaho families why he wants Chaney to vote on laws that affect the safety of Idaho families and Idaho children.”

Hamilton didn’t return messages for comment.

According to court documents, Hamilton posted a $500 bond two days later, on Jan. 9th. He has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Feb. 26th.

 

Melissa Davlin contributed to this report. 

Standard

Resources for sexual abuse survivors and those having suicidal thoughts

Here on Idaho Reports, we’d already been planning multiple stories and discussions this season related to mental health, crisis centers, and suicide in our state. And of course, there’s a grim cross-over between childhood sexual abuse, depression, and suicide. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are two to four times more likely to attempt suicide.

But that’s preventable, and there’s help for survivors of sexual abuse. Brandon Hixon’s death has forced both of these uncomfortable topics into the spotlight this week. And perhaps one of the reasons they’re so uncomfortable is we don’t talk enough about sexual abuse. We don’t talk enough about suicide. We don’t talk enough about mental health issues.

The terrible circumstances surrounding Hixon’s death shouldn’t make us shy away from these conversations. So we’re going to have them. And it might be awkward at times, but it’s important. On this week’s Idaho Reports, following Gov. Otter’s recommendation of opening three additional crisis centers across the state, we’re focusing on suicide prevention. 

This isn’t just because of Brandon Hixon, but because of the thousands of Idahoans who are touched by the tragedy of suicide every year.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional crisis, you can contact the Idaho Suicide Helpline at 208-398-4357, or visit their website.  

And for resources for victims and survivors of sexual abuse, you’ll find links to resources on the attorney general’s website.   In addition, Faces of Hope offers multiple services for victims, including group therapy, legal assistance, and emergency housing. You can find out more on their website. 

Standard